Punakha is a beautiful warm valley at an altitude of about 1200m above sea level - you can tell by the warmth that it isn't very high up. Covered with lush green terraced paddy fields, the fertile district is Bhutan's biggest producer of rice.
|Paddy fields outside our room in Punakha|
Punakha attracts hordes of visitors for two main reasons - this is the first one:
|Jacaranda blooms at the Punakha Dzong|
Good reason, right? The Punakha Dzong is widely considered to be Bhutan's most beautiful fortress. And it's very hard to disagree, especially during spring - the front of the fortress is covered by gorgeous purple jacaranda trees in full bloom. No wonder the present king and queen chose to get married in this idyllic setting.
|The gorgeous Punakha Dzong|
The second reason is a 15th century saint named Drukpa Kunley, or the Divine Madman. He was an absolutely outrageous teacher who used his phallus (yeah, you read that right) to tame demons and bless followers - he called it his Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom!! I want to keep my blog family-friendly, so I won't go into any more details, but you should totally google him - he's an utterly fascinating character! Since he subdued a demon here at Punakha, there's a temple called the Chimi Lhakhang, dedicated to him. It's also called the temple of fertility. It is reached by a beautiful 20 minute hike through the village and past paddy fields. On the way, almost every home or shop has a phallus painted on it - this is actually very common all over Bhutan. The paintings are believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. Phallus themed souvenirs are very popular too.
Punakha is also home to Bhutan's longest suspension bridge that hangs over a gushing river:
|Punakha Suspension Bridge|
We stayed at the Drubchhu Resort in Punakha. It is pretty modern, but it's very charming and beautiful. It's a family run resort, and the mom is a very passionate gardener. Every time we ran into her, she was in her hat and boots with a shovel in her hand - that is exactly what I want to be when I grow old!
|Our room at the Drubchhu Resort, Punakha|
|Nasturtiums from the garden at the Drubchhu Resort, Punakha|
One of my favourite things in Punakha was hanging out with the young monks sitting on the grass outside the Chimi Lhakhang - some of them were doing their homework, some were practicing playing the dungchen, a kind of horn from Tibet. We couldn't understand one another too well, but it was really fun to watch them learn magic tricks from Tenzing, our guide :)